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Swimming With The FishesBraised Tilapia In A Walnut Ham Broth

I have to beg a bit of forgiveness with this recipe - it’s likely way out of your comfort zone - it was certainly out of mine. But I loved it and am happy to have done it. I mean, who puts walnuts, ham and black garlic together? (We do now).

I had some surgery recently and have been using Instacart to deliver my groceries. Sometimes, the mistakes or substitutions are hilarious. I ordered tilapia filets from ShopRite, but got whole (cleaned, thank goodness) tilapia instead. Happy accident. It worked out well and now I know where I can get whole cleaned tilapia.

Ingredients for Stock

Ham: Small ham or 2-3 hocks. I used a small Hillbilly Bacon Roast cut in cubes

2 bulbs black garlic (or equivalent number of cloves)

1 cup chopped raw walnuts

2 large bay leaves

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Ingredients for the Dish

Whole tilapia*

½ cup cleaned baby radishes

2 scallions

Salt & pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil


Remove cloves of garlic from their bulbs. Add them and everything else to a stock pot.

Cover with water by about an inch. You can also so it a lot quicker in a pressure cooker.

Simmer, covered, until stock is becoming flavorful and fragrant, about 2 hours.

With a potato masher or fork, mash the ingredients a little bit. Simmer covered for another hour. If the flavor is weak, simmer uncovered for a bit longer, checking every 15 minutes or so.

Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard the solids all but for the larger pieces of ham that have fallen from the bone. (You can include them in the broth, but I wanted a nice clear broth, so I removed them.)

Preheat the oven to 400.

*If your tilapia is frozen, you can still use it - just add at least 5 more minutes to your cook time.

In a large oven-safe pan, heat the oil to medium-high. Salt & pepper the inside and outside of the fish.

Place in the pan and sear each side for 30-45 seconds.

Just barely cover the fish with the broth. If you have extra, save it for later. You’re not going to want to save any after you’ve braised the fish in it.

Add the radishes. Don’t use large ones, they won’t cook in time. I have a lot of radish plants in the garden so I picked them when tiny.

Place the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Check that the internal temperature has reached 145. (Don’t eat raw tilapia.)

Serve ever the fish in a shallow bowl with some of the broth and radishes, topped with some chopped scallions.

If you are so inclined, serve some crusty bread with this, because the broth is earthy, smoky and delicious.

I confess, I am a terrible food stylist/photographer. But even for me, the plated dish was pretty impressive. I wish I had Bruce Burk or Mark Leary always in my kitchen to make me look good, but, you get the idea.

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